Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Dropped Food Safety Estimator

Improvements on the "5 second rule"
  (+8, -1)
(+8, -1)
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against]

There is a widely held belief that a food item, dropped on the floor but picked up again within 5 seconds, remains sufficiently untainted to be safe to eat. Recent studies have come to the conclusion that "well, it depends." This idea is for both an algorithm and a device that would take into account those dependencies.

The algorithm itself will remain undetailed here, as it is currently under study and development, and will probably be at about ver 4.7 before you would want to trust it; just suffice it to say that the existence of the algorithm would be a prerequisite to the device.

The device will simply be a modified cell phone; most are currently capable of running a quite a lot of software. This add-on requires only minimal hardware updates. The two hardware requirements are a camera (currently common) and an accelerometer (not quite so common).

A number of factors would go into the calculation of a "go/no go" decision; the Estimator makes it easy to remember them via a series of prompts.

In breif, the variables which will be analyzed by the software are: duration of contact (this is actually only marginally determinitive, thus this whole idea), makeup and structure of food item, surface properties of floor, and floor cleanliness.

So, a demonstration is in order.

"Ooops!... thousand two onethousand three onethou - <grab> got it!" (looks dubiously at item)
"You gonna eat that?"
"Dunno, I'll check." (pulls out cell phone, goes to Safety Estimator menu).
[Time on floor]-> 2.4 seconds
[Hardness of food item, 1-10 or select similar item from menu]->moist cake
[Solidity of floor, 1-10 or drop phone on surface]->(thunk)
[Take image of floor]->(click)
[Wipe floor with hand]->(swish)
[Re-image floor]->(click)
[Calculating...]
[The item is safe, probably. Click for disclaimer]

"Hey, what did you do with my Twinkie?!"

lurch, Dec 19 2005

Ig nobel award winner http://www.howard.e.../04-10-01clarke.htm
[DenholmRicshaw, Dec 20 2005]

Nausea scale mentioned http://en.wikipedia...wiki/Space_sickness
Works well with [phundug]'s measure for causality [lurch, Dec 20 2005]

[link]






       Yes and that the five second rule is a stupid excuse for sick freaks to eat droped food.
Antegrity, Dec 20 2005
  

       We need a standard unit of measurement (I propose the "millisqueam") to gauge how filthy a piece of food is -- "OMG, you're eating that? That's 60 millisqueams!" "It's all right, I'm not squeamish."
phundug, Dec 20 2005
  

       What could possibly occur to endanger food simply through dropping it? The lower altitude? The deformation? The sudden shock? Almost all of those would have no effect on the edibility of food, with the possible exception of soup or a cup of tea. Is it because there's a risk of dropping it directly into a cowpat or some dogshit? Depends how long the excrement monument has had to dry - you could easily get lucky, or if not, only have to pick off a small part of the food, the same as one does with the blue bits of bread. Is it some sort of inexplicable modern deformity of mental function that allows one to imagine that you're dropping it exactly where some dogshit or a cowpat until recently was, but has been skillfully removed with forensically absolutely zero trace? That's okay, it's gone - see? Safe.   

       I suppose it matters if the food item is a commercially available fast-food beefburger, and you drop it onto some dogshit or a cowpat - however would you tell it apart - you might eat the wrong product.
Ian Tindale, Dec 20 2005
  

       Ends of the scale:
Jawbreaker on a hardwood floor - safe
Custard in a sand box - no go
lurch, Dec 20 2005
  

       Cute idioms for next generation's use ("c'mon, that's as safe as a jawbreaker on a hardwood floor!")
phundug, Dec 20 2005
  

       or possibly "drop it like a custard in a sandbox"
wakeNbake, Mar 22 2006
  

       In addition to [Ian]'s dogshits and cowpats, the extent to which your kitchen floor is covered in pet hair (and small pets) should be taken into account too.
hippo, Mar 23 2006
  

       As a germophobe, I never eat anything that has fallen on the floor. Unless I am drunk. Since I've never suffered food poisoning, it follows that the alcohol provided prophylactic antisepsis.   

       Perhaps we might introduce a tradition whereby the the consumption of retrieved food is chased with a strong shot of spirits and the toast, "Raise the glass and open wide. It's not booze--it's germicide."
YoDaveG, Apr 12 2006
  
      
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